Baseball: FAU battles Rutgers in a grind out series, winning two of three games

All three games were decided by a single run


FAU junior second basemen Stephen Kerr runs toward third base and eventually home on a single from junior CJ Chatham during the top of fourth inning versus the St. Louis Cardinals on March 2. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Chris Libreros, Contributing Writer

On the heels of sweeping Saint Joseph University as part of a two-game series on Wednesday, March 9, Florida Atlantic baseball continued its homestand in Boca Raton, taking on the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights.

After splitting both of the first two games in the series, the series tiebreaker would come down to a rubber match on Sunday.

FAU won yet another close game in this series on Sunday to win the series two games to one, with all three games decided by one run.

The three game series marked FAU’s (13-2) ninth game in 12 days.

”Maybe that had something to do with it,” FAU head coach John Mccormack said, when asked if the schedule affected his team. “I thought Rutgers pitched exceptionally well all weekend … Everything factors in a little bit but I thought our guys grinded out a series victory.”

The highly contested series saw both teams consistently making use of solid pitching, timely hits and stingy fielding in all three games.

In game one, FAU was in danger early, conceding five runs to Rutgers (6-8) in the top of the first inning, including a home run. After eight back and forth innings, FAU found itself in a three-run deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth.

FAU would grind out the victory, defeating Rutgers by way of a walk-off-walk — the Owls’ first walk-off victory of the season.

Game two saw the Owls and Scarlet Knights in another tight game, coming down to the final inning, yet again. This time it was a Rutgers three-run seventh inning that the Owls could not overcome in FAU’s sole loss this weekend.

In the rubber match of the weekend, the Owls and Scarlet Knights battled in a pitching duel in which neither team gained more than a one-run lead. The Owls would walk off again thanks to an RBI single by sophomore catcher Gunnar Lambert.

FAU gets a well needed five day rest before a road trip to Tennessee where the team takes on its first Conference USA opponent of the season in Middle Tennessee.

When asked what Coach McCormack looked forward to most as part of him team’s off-time leading up to its next series, he responded, “Get some guys healthy … and of course, the most important thing, we’ll have a full week of class, it’s important for those guys to get their homework.”

Game one is on Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m.

Game One: Rutgers 8 , FAU 9

The Owls dug an early hole for themselves, allowing five runs in the first inning behind two fielding errors and three hits, including a home run for Rutgers’ junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk.

Following runs in the second and sixth inning for FAU, the Owls faced an 8-5 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth inning.

FAU batted through its entire lineup in the inning, setting up a two-out bases loaded situation with redshirt junior first baseman Esteban Puerta stepping to the plate.

Following a foul ball that pushed the count to 3-2, Puerta earned a walk-off walk against Rutgers senior pitcher Reed Shuttle, capping off a four-run ninth inning comeback.

FAU junior designated hitter Sean Labsan contributed as well, going 3-for-4, including 3 RBIs and a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth.

This was the first blown save for Shuttle this season, who conceded his first four runs of the year in Friday’s game one.

FAU junior pitcher Colyn O’Connell earned his second win of the year, throwing four pitches for FAU after replacing freshman pitcher Nick Swan, who earned four strikeouts in three scoreless innings.

Game Two: Rutgers 5, FAU 4

The Owls faced a similar challenge to the one they had the night before, yet again trailing in the last inning of play. This time with the tying run on first base and two outs, Puerta stepped up to the plate hoping to come up with the clutch at bat for the second consecutive game.

This time however the result would be different, as Puerta flied out to left field, ending the Owls’ winning streak and tying the series at 1-1, handing FAU its second loss of the season.

FAU came out to a better start in their second matchup against Rutgers, only allowing one first inning hit to Rutgers, as opposed to the five runs allowed in Friday’s game.

The Owls acquired their only lead in this game during the first inning when senior leftfielder Christian Dicks hit an RBI triple that brought in junior infielder CJ Chatham.

Following a Rutgers game-tying run in the fourth as well as runs being scored by both teams in the sixth, FAU conceded three runs in the seventh behind singles from Rutgers freshman outfielder Jawuan Harris and senior catcher R.J. Devish. Junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk then hit a sacrifice fly to add another Scarlet Knights’ run.

FAU responded, adding two runs of its own behind an RBI double from FAU senior right fielder Brett Lashley as well as an RBI single from senior outfielder Billy Endris, cutting a three-run lead down to one with two innings remaining.

In the following inning, FAU would face its closest attempt at tying the score in Saturday’s matchup with Lashley and freshman catcher Tyler Frank on second and third base respectively.

Sensing the possibility of yet another comeback, Rutgers made a change at pitcher, bringing in freshman Kevin Romero for the final out of the inning. FAU junior infielder Stephen Kerr flied out to second base ending the inning and helping Rutgers narrowly avoid a second comeback loss in a row.

Game three: Rutgers 2, FAU 3

With the series tied at one win apiece, the two teams faced off on a Sunday afternoon with Rutgers looking to become the first team this season to defeat FAU in a three-game series.

In the toughest game of the series, FAU and Rutgers went to work early found themselves in a 2-2 tie following the conclusion of the third inning.

The score would remained tied through the next five innings.

Following a Christian Dicks’ eighth inning single to center field and a wild pitch that would send him to second base, Gunner Lambert, earned his first hit of the series on an RBI single to right field.

The play came down to a meeting at the plate as Dicks narrowly escaped the tag in a race to home plate to earn the Owls their second win of the weekend.

Christopher Libreros is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.